Earlier this week I was presented the opportunity to tag along with Greg and Alli as they conducted their shorebird nesting survey at the Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area. First we saw that it was a beautiful, sunny, and clear morning as we slowly motored away from the Ten Thousand Islands field station dock. The mosquitoes weren’t even annoying for some reason. The light breeze, combined with the slow movement of the boat gave us just the right amount of early- morning air conditioning. Beautiful sunrise, gentle breeze, no mosquitoes – wow, guess this is how Goodland got its name.
As we slowly motored towards Goodland from the dock, I saw a circular flat spot on the water about 15 feet off the side of the boat. “Manatee footprint?” I asked Alli and Greg. I looked behind us as we slowly continued and, sure enough, saw a whole series of “footprints” from the wide circular tail fluke of manatees appeared, along with few manatee snouts popping up at the surface.
Sad people are often described as feeling “blue.” But what if we really could change colors according to our moods? If only we could ask the orange filefish…
Last week I was photographing a young orange filefish for an ID card for our aquaria. I first started taking pictures of it on a black background to match the style of the other id cards. After a little while I decided to shoot it on white to see which background looked better. It wasn’t until I was reviewing the photos that I discovered that something beside the background had changed. The fish became much paler while being photographed on the white background!
On Wednesday April 12, I was part of a team of people who rescued an injured manatee. The injured manatee was reported to FWC by Marco Island residents that had spotted it in their backyard canals. The Florida Wildlife Research Institute is the arm of the FWC responsible for manatee research and rehabilitation, and their office is in Port Charlotte, almost three hours away. Before they can mobilize for a rescue, reports must be confirmed by a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which includes several staff members at Rookery Bay Research Reserve.
On Friday, March 10, I took part in Rookery Bay Reserve’s high school education program field trip, which consisted of some trawling, learning about the estuary and learning about organisms who live there. Being the Education intern for Rookery Bay, it was a great viewpoint to see how each program offered by the Education department is different in their own special way.
The trip started at the field station for Rookery Bay, off Shell island road and was led by Dave Graff who coordinates the high school and university programs. As the students arrived we headed into the classroom and spoke about where we were located, what Rookery Bay does and why. After a few laughs about the answers that were given by the students we finished up and headed out to the boat.
Recently I assisted scientists from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) studying the mangrove ecosystem at a future restoration project on Marco Island. This site comprises a large mangrove die-off area near Fruit Farm Creek, located on San Marco Road between Goodland and the City of Marco. The main cause of the die-off is restricted tidal flow. Although mangroves can tolerate high salt content (“salinity”), it’s still necessary to let water flush in and out of the system to bring in oxygenated, lower salinity water and remove waste material like sulfide. RBNERR and its partners have designed a restoration project would restore water exchange by dredging creeks that have filled in, and opening culverts under the road.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve was designated in 1978 and named for the bay where thousands of wading birds roost and nest on certain mangrove islands. A lot of other birds also rely on this area for survival. Reserve staff and volunteers keep tabs on these bird populations as an indicator of estuarine health.
I recently had the pleasure of joining our shorebird monitoring intern Alli, volunteer captain Larry and another staff member on the monthly shorebird survey. We got an early start from the Ten Thousand Islands field station, near Goodland, so that we could take advantage of the tide and get back by lunch.
Yesterday morning I went out on my weekly non-breeding bird survey, accompanied by Education Intern Brooke, and volunteer Larry. While on these surveys I try to get accurate counts of all the different shorebird species using the beaches in the reserve while noting other factors like behavior and disturbance.
Last Thursday I was lucky enough to accompany one of our visiting investigators, Martha Zapata from Ohio State University, into the field to assist with her masters thesis research. Martha is studying the complexity of food webs in the East River, a tributary to Fakahatchee Bay.
The day started great - we met at the Environmental Learning Center and headed out to our Goodland field station with all our gear, food, water and coffee. It was a beautiful south Florida day, sunny and in the low 70s. The journey began with a 45-minute boat ride out to Martha’s lower study sites in the East River. Martha also has sites upriver that are only accessible by kayak from US 41.